Friday, 10 May 2013
One of the most pleasing aspects of putting together the 'Urbane' LP has been the opportunity to work with some of my personal favourites and heroes from the world of pop. Obviously Eno's involved too - incidentally, I swear he eats his own body weight in Jaffa cakes over the course of a session - although his contributions have got so quiet and ethereal of late that I just tend to turn the level of his synthesizer down completely and crank up the mic on his feather boa. Sounds much the same - in fact, a bit grungier if anything...
Lana del Rey was an unexpected but very new addition to my close-knit coterie of collaborators. I'd expected her to be somewhat more of a diva than she turned out to be actually. Her penchant for milk stout was particularly surprising - especially so when taken with a Cinzano top. I'd had an odd inkling about the pickled onions though, as it goes, and so was able to congratulate myself on my excellent foresight whilst watching her guzzle down a couple of jars in between crates of Mackeson. I was flattered but still a little irked to discover later that she'd swanned off with a couple of my favourite blouses after laying down the tambourine part on 'Sparklejumpropequeen' - although, to be fair, she probably pulls off a wire wool and cheeseystrings combo with a little more elan than I ever managed. They probably do need a broader shoulder, with hindsight.
So you can imagine my unbounded joy when one of my favourite ever singers, Scott Walker called to ask if there was anything he could do to help me put the finishing touches to the album. Obviously Scott's about the only person currently operating in the music business who could reasonably be described as being more outre than your humble scribe - obviously as I'm almost comepletely vegan, it rather rules out the possibility of using a dead pig's carcass as a percussion instrument to recreate the viscious slapping meted out to Mussolini and his wife (Clara?) as they hung from lamp-posts. Obviously, I'd have no such qualms about using Nick Clegg, but I've just not had the time to hunt him down yet, but I'll catch Scott up one day in the wierdo stakes, just you wait and see!
Scott arrives looking dapper in a baseball cap and a pair of luminous Mickey Mouse ears. I'd been warned to expect a somewhat erratic presence but even an eccentric old dufferette like me is a bit taken aback when he insists on talking in a high-pitched and squeaky voise and calling me 'Pluto'. Still, he's otherwise no trouble at all and certainly not a biscuit-hoovering gannet along Eno lines. Indeed during the marathon session the poor thing is more than happy to graze on nothing more elaborate than a hardened crust of cheese he'd spied lurking at the back of the fridge. He nibbles on this occasionally throughout the day in between making odd peeping noises and twitching his nose.
Lunch sorted, we head up to the attic and, when I can stop him from nosing around the skirting boards for five minutes, Scott begins to layer some dissonant string parts onto my song 'Gone'. It's a complex and time consuming process which entails him lying spreadeagled over the keyboard playing a series of chords as dictated by the random gyrations of his enviably wiry torso - must look into the nutritional values of hardened cheese rind; it's obviously working for him. Of course, that's the easy bit. The difficult and laborious part is sifting through hundreds of takes to find the one that sounds most out of tune. It's no wonder his LPs take so ruddy long - I'd have cracked by the second week and be phoning up the rest of the Walker Brothers to ask if they wanted to do an album of saccharine Archies covers played by five year olds on the ukulele, but Scott's obviously made of sterner stuff. I keep wanting to tell him he should let me produce him - it only took me six weeks to churn out the tuneless twaddle that was Bedroom Burlesque and I didn't have to lie on top of the keyboard once - but I hate to disturb a proper artist when they're at work.
Finally, after what seems like a month, we manage to comp a section that comprises of absolutely no melody whatsoever and I'm able to usher him out of the studio (carefully avoiding the cat, who has a current body count of 21 mice, 1 rat and a wood pigeon to his name) and wave Scott a cheery farewell. Blimey, that was hard work. I've barely time to wind up another dumb waiter-full of bourbon biscuits to keep Brian going as he starts adding 'Enossifications' to Scotts sting overdub than it's time for Emmerdale. I must be due for retirement soon, surely...?